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article imageReview: ‘Dracula: Untold’ gives gothic horror an adrenaline shot Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Oct 10, 2014 in Entertainment
‘Dracula: Untold’ entirely reimagines the famed vampire’s origin story, updating the tale for an audience raised on spectacle over subtlety.
Bram Stoker's Dracula, which popularized vampire fiction, is more than a century old, and has been imagined and reimagined on screen countless times since the earliest motion pictures. Most of the details generally remain consistent with his rendering, though minor changes to the immortal’s abilities or desires are not uncommon. The vampire's name was inspired by that of Vlad the Impaler, though the similarities end there. Dracula: Untold is an entirely new take on the classic tale of a tortured soul forced to endlessly wander the earth.
Vlad (Luke Evans), along with 1,000 other boys, was indentured to the Turkish army at an early age. He was trained to be a ruthless soldier, though his achievement would exceed expectations and earn him the moniker Vlad the Impaler. He eventually earned his freedom and returned to his home to reign as prince of his land. However the Turkish Sultan's (Dominic Cooper) greed brings him once more to Vlad's doorstep, seeking a new tribute the prince is unwilling to pay. To save his family and subjects, Vlad strikes a deal with a monster (Charles Dance) that haunts the mountains that will give him the strength to stand against the Turkish legion for three days. But if he cannot resist the accompanying hunger for blood, he will remain a bloodthirsty monster for eternity.
This film rewrites the origins of both the man and the monster. Vlad is portrayed much kinder than history dictates. The devoted family man tries to put his violent past behind him and rule in peace. He struggles with the decision to return to war where his real-life counterpart never left it and gained infamy for his cruel tactics. Vlad's drawn-out transformation into a vampire is clearly a plot device to extend an otherwise brief experience into a full-length narrative. One of the few elements drawn from Stoker's tale is Vlad's uncompromised devotion for his wife, Mirena (Sarah Gadon). Accordingly, the heart of the movie is their love story as it is the main motivation for almost all of Vlad's actions.
Sarah Gadon and Luke Evans star as the couple at the heart of  Dracula: Untold
Sarah Gadon and Luke Evans star as the couple at the heart of 'Dracula: Untold'
Universal Pictures
In spite of the declared war between good and evil, and Vlad's struggle with his inner darkness, the narrative lacks any notable depth. These intriguing elements are only superficially explored in between the massive CGI battles that pit one man against hundreds and then thousands. The plot is relatively conventional as is the progression of the script, though it does carve out a wholly unique origin story for the classic character — whether this is a positive change is another question. Nonetheless, the main efforts for the film were undoubtedly applied to the design of the special effects.
Thus the movie's strength lies in its visually impressive sequences. Vlad gains the fantastic ability to morph into a colony of bats when he wants to move quickly, resulting in a stunning effect that is frequently repeated throughout the film. Moreover his control over other creatures of the night is reserved for an epic takeover of every bat in the area, which probably forms the film's most striking images. Conversely, the actual fight scenes are usually too close, fast and chaotic to be enjoyed before or after Vlad gets his supernatural powers.
Evans is more than adequate in his role, both sufficiently handsome and brooding for the part. Dance is an appropriately creepy vampire, while Gadon appears deserving of Vlad’s complete admiration. In contrast, Cooper lacks the fire of a leader hellbent on war with his former brother — a problem previously experienced by the actor.
The movie has an open ending, so only time will tell if they move onto Stoker's original material next. But one has to wonder, is this the future of Universal monsters?
Director: Gary Shore
Starring: Luke Evans, Dominic Cooper and Sarah Gadon
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